I believe you

Content Note:

Discussion of sexual harassment and sexual assault, mention of victim blaming

Having a good sense of hearing is, generally speaking, a useful tool for people working in the service industry. It certainly is for me as a bartender. In my 17 years pouring drinks, I can’t recall how many times it has come in handy. Often, I’ll be in the process of helping one group of people decide what they want to drink when another group sits down at the bar. While making the drinks for group one, it is not unusual for me to overhear what group two is deciding to drink and, if they settle upon something, for me to make their drinks and greet them with their cocktails (or beer/wine as the case may be). Many a guest has remarked at how impressed they are that I can hear conversations in a bar with loud patrons and/or music.  Sometimes that hearing can lead to awkward moments, like the times I’ve happened to hear people discussing sexual activities. Other times, it can lead to commiserations, such as a recent chat three people were having about the challenges they faced with caring for an elderly family member and the additional difficulties of that family member having dementia.

(Before I go any further, I want to make one thing clear: I am not in any way trying to eavesdrop on guests. Between my hearing and the relatively small size of my bar, (comfortably seats 12 people) it’s hard NOT to hear what people are saying, unless they are speaking softly (which isn’t something most patrons at a bar tend to do; certainly not these two guys) ).

Then there are the decidedly unfun, so-frustrating-I-want-to-pull-my hair-out conversations that I’d be happy to never hear again.

Like the one I heard yesterday between two guys. They were complaining about the #MeToo hashtag and the ever growing list of men who have been publicly accused of sexual harassment and/or sexual assault. Sadly, like many men (and more than a handful of women and non-men), these guys had doubts about the allegations. One of them brought up the fact that many of the victims waited decades before speaking up about their assault. I was supposed to be ringing in the food order for another guest, but as I stood at the computer, all I could do was shake my head in frustration. Frustration bc those two guys sounded like countless other men online or in meatspace who leap to defend the accused (that frustration was made worse bc I wanted to speak up, but A: I was also tending to other guests, B: the two guys did not seem reasonable on this subject, C: I would have had to spend time I didn’t have engaging the two louts to effectively counter their bullshit, and D: even if I did have time, I would have to figure out–on the fly–the most polite way to express myself so as to ensure I still got tipped, since I do go to work to get paid). They sounded like many Rape Culture apologists. The ones who say  things like:

“They’re in it for the money.”
“They’re doing it for the attention.”
“It wasn’t sexual assault. It was regret sex.”
“it’s a conspiracy to bring down powerful men.”
“whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty?”
“If they really were assaulted or harassed, they would have gone to the police right after it happened.”

Check out the comments on any article about sexual harassment or sexual assault. Whether it’s a local newspaper or a nationally renowned publication, you are almost guaranteed to find comments of a similar nature. They betray a great deal of ignorance (and demonstrate a lack of compassion) on the part of the speaker and they send a message to victims and assailants alike:  sexual harassment and sexual assault should be treated with immediate skepticism and doubt. The thing is, these are the only crimes in which the default position is one of doubt. For other crimes, victims are believed and their claims treated as truthful (until and unless evidence is discovered that disputes their claims). That is fucked up and absolutely should not be the case. In my opinion,

believing victims should be the default

Continue reading “I believe you”

I believe you

Feminist Link Round Up 12.11.14

If catcalling is harmless, why did this man get stabbed 9 times defending his girlfriend from street harassment?

“It barely missed my spinal cord in the back by just a few inches, so luckily this wheelchair is not permanent, thank God,” he said. “I punctured my right lung from behind.”

Schwartz was stabbed nine times Saturday morning walking home from a friend’s house, with his girlfriend. They were near Larkin and Ellis streets when he said a man started catcalling and making obscene comments.

“At first we tried to just ignore it, just kind of walk away and make our way home, cross the street and try to take a different path,” he said.

But the man started following them and Schwartz braced for a fight.

“It turned violent very quickly, punches thrown,” he said. “Next thing I know, I kinda had a knife in the back of my neck.”

The suspect was picked up in a silver sedan and got away. Between witnesses and police Schwartz got help and was taken to the hospital. His mother came in from Tucson, Ariz. as fast as she could.

“It’s a terrifying experience for a parent or probably anybody who hears about it,” Schwartz’s mother Claire Schuren said.

If catcalling and street harassment are harmless, why did any violence occur at all? This is why the advice to ignore the problem doesn’t always work.  Sometimes ignoring the problem results in violence. Sometimes it doesn’t. There’s no way of knowing what will happen in a given situation. Instead of telling women how to handle street harassment, efforts need to be made to teach people not to harass women on the street.

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A court in the UK ruled that drinking while pregnant is not a crime.

The case was brought by a local authority applying to the government’s criminal compensation authority for damages on behalf of a seven-year-old girl in its care who has severe disabilities after her mother drank heavily while pregnant.

“We have held that a mother who is pregnant and who drinks to excess… is not guilty of a criminal offense under our law if her child is subsequently born damaged as a result,” the ruling said.

The local authority’s lawyers had argued that the mother was “reckless” in her behavior by drinking up to half a bottle of vodka and eight cans of strong lager a day while she was pregnant.

While they do not suggest the damage was deliberate, they say she discussed her drinking with professionals and “went on to take the risk.”

The ruling centered on whether a fetus can be considered a person under English law.

Thankfully the court found that a fetus cannot be considered a person.  Which really isn’t that hard a conclusion to reach if you base your conclusions on evidence.  A fetus does not possess agency, nor self-awareness.  A fetus has no sense of the passage of time and exhibits no behavioral control.  There may not be a comprehensive list of agreed upon characteristics that defines what a person is, but there are many qualities associated with personhood.  Aside from being biologically human or having the possibility of becoming a person, no fetus possesses any of the qualities necessary to be deemed a person. As such, it has no rights (and for the abortion argument, it still wouldn’t matter if the fetus was a person with rights; no human being has the right to use another’s body without their consent).

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Large study confirms that abortion is extremely safe

After analyzing data from nearly 55,000 women who received abortion care under California’s Medicaid program, researchers at UC San Francisco concluded that hardly any of them had serious complications within six weeks of their procedure. Just 126 cases necessitated follow-up care for surgery, a blood transfusion, or other conditions that require hospital admission.

Other studies, including data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have also confirmed abortion’s safety. We already had some evidence, for instance, that giving birth is about 14 times riskier than having an abortion. But the new UCSF study goes a bit further than previous research by tracking the complete data on all of the health care used by women who have received abortions. Since many women have to travel long distances to end a pregnancy, the UCSF researchers also examined women’s follow-up care at facilities closer to where they live.

Despite the mounting evidence in this area, the notion that abortion may be dangerous for women is a pervasive assumption that has bolstered the passage of dozens of state laws tightening restrictions on clinics and doctors. In a press release announcing their findings, the study authors indicated that they hope the new study “will contribute to the national debate over abortion safety.”

“Abortion is very safe as currently performed, which calls into question the need for additional regulations that purportedly aim to improve safety,” said Ushma Upadhyay, an assistant professor at Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH), a leading research program based at UCSF.

Leading reproductive rights groups echoed that sentiment, pointing out that anti-abortion lawmakers are making decisions that don’t align with reality.

“The science says abortion is safe, but time and time again elected officials are ignoring the facts and jamming through abortion restrictions under a false guise of ‘safety’ when they actually endanger women,” Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood, said in a statement.

Sadly this won’t stop anti-abortion proponents from pushing for further abortion restrictions.  These are people who pay no heed to the evidence.  All they care about is shaming and controlling women.

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Uber offers $31 to woman after driver asks her if she likes blow jobs

A woman in London said she was sexually harassed by an Uber driver who asked if she liked blow jobs and offered to pull down a side street and perform “sucky sucky” on her during her route.

The unidentified woman, who shared emails of her exchange with Uber about the incident with Newsweek, described the March encounter as scary. According to Newsweek, she first contacted Uber after the hellish ride telling the company “Driver was very forward and quite creepy. Asked me if I wanted him to go down on me. Not cool.”

A marketing manager who responded to her complaint via email apologized, referring to the incident with the driver as an “intrusive experience.” The marketing manager then told her the company was “already investigating this with [the driver] and I can assure you that the necessary actions will be taken to avoid a similar incident in future.” The email she received from the company concluded with a thank you to her from bringing the issue to their attention. “[While] painful to hear, it’s the best way for us to address any incidents like this,” it stated.

Dissatisfied with the company’s lukewarm response, she wrote a longer description of what occurred:

She described how, having initially got in the back of the cab the driver invited her to sit in the front, which she agreed to do, feeling car sick. He then started asking about her relationship status before using increasingly inappropriate language:

“Towards the end of the journey he was asking if I liked blow jobs, saying that he was very good at going down on girls or giving “sucky sucky” to girls and did I want him to do it to me. He even suggested that he could pull over into a side street and do it now if I wanted, which was I think the scariest part of the drive.”

She detailed how, as a woman alone in the car, she felt very uncomfortable and if she hadn’t trusted the Uber name she would have got out the car. She concluded the email:

“I am aware that this kind of thing becomes very much a he-said, she-said kind of deal, but I did want to make you aware of it as I feel that people really trust the Uber name (as I do) and my trust was completely violated. I am pretty relaxed and outgoing and I feel that I can take care of myself, and if I felt so uncomfortable I dread to think how a more timid girl would have felt. I won’t be taking this any further but I do implore you to take this quite seriously as I worry for other women who could find themselves in a similar situation.”

She then received another response from a different Uber representative, which said the company was “shocked” to learn about her experience. According to Newsweek, the email stated “while things like this should definitely not happen in the first place, in the unlikely event that they do occur we have the full details of the driver, trip and rider on our systems so that we can immediately investigate any concerns raised.”

The company then offered her a £20 ($31) credit, signing the email “Sorry again for such an un-Uber experience.”

Such a response is what I’d expect if a driver didn’t arrive on time or damaged someone’s luggage, not following a driver sexually harassing a passenger.

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Chris Rock:  Don’t Forget, Ben Roethlisberger Was Accused of Rape, Too

Chris Rock called out Ben Roethlisberger on Tuesday night, reminding the media and the public that Bill Cosby isn’t the only celebrity whose history of rape allegations was swept under the rug.

During a media screening for his new film, Top Five, Rock called Roethlisberger “the original Cosby,” alluding to the quarterback’s history of rape allegations. Immediately after the comment, Rock realized his comment would probably catch some heat. “That’s horrible,” he said. “That’s gonna go everywhere.” (You can watch a clip of Rock’s comment at TMZ.)

Feminist Link Round Up 12.11.14

Feminist Link Round Up 10.24.14

Almost All Female Restaurant Workers Have Experienced Sexual Harassment

A horrifying though sadly unsurprising report released today sheds light on rampant sexual harassment experienced by women in the service industry. The damning report by Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United and Forward Together discovered that 90% of female restaurant workers had experienced some form of sexual harassment from either a customer, co-worker or higher up at their place of employment—and for over half, they were sexually harassed on a weekly basis.

The report, called The Glass Floor: Sexual Harassment in the Restaurant Industry, surveyed nearly 700 current or recent employees of restaurants and conducted focus groups in major US cities including New York and Washington DC. Through this research, it was revealed that women were twice as likely to experience at-work sexual harassment in states where servers are paid the $2.13 Federal minimum for tipped workers and that both men and women were likelier to experience harassment in states that used that minimum.

Perhaps even more disturbing is that women who were surveyed were often compelled by management to sexualize their actions but feared reprisal if they reported any sexual harassment from management or customers. Understandably, women who went through these experience “reported deterioration in their emotional well-being, including increased depression and anxiety” and were one and a half times more likely to “live with harassing behaviors” if they’d already worked in a tipping environment.

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Strange Empire

STRANGE EMPIRE is a Western whose heroes are women. With most of their men gone, and those who remain battling for control, the women struggle to survive, to find their independence, and to build a life in which to thrive and raise families. As the stories of Janestown’s citizens unfold we see the clash between a power-hungry father and son and the deep prejudices among races, but also the start of something akin to community in this Wild West. Western stories take civilization as a goal; they begin in blood, and end in the morality of Main Street. Starring Cara Gee as Kat Loving, Melissa Farman as Dr. Rebecca Blithely and Tattiawna Jones as Isabelle Slotter.
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 10 Responses to the phrase ‘Man Up’

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 31% of queer women feel safe, secure, and involved in their community


It is important to look below the surface of street harassment to see why it might influence queer women’s community involvement and sense of safety and security. Some incidents of homophobic violence against members of queer communities begin with street harassment (here) but research suggests that gay men who are victims of hate crime are often targeted when they are in gay spaces, such as gay-borhoods and near gay bars. Those who attack gay men often premeditate the attack and operate in groups to outnumber a lone gay man or a gay male couple.

However, frequently when lesbians are victims of anti-gay harassment and violence, they are attacked in everyday spaces such as parking lots and college campuses (here and here). Perpetrators who target lesbians are most often men and alone; however, the lesbian is often not alone but is with another woman or more than one other woman. Typically the attacker is a man but he has not gone to a gay area to find his lesbian victim/s and he hasn’t premeditated his verbal, physical or sexual assault. Rather, the harasser has chosen to act in that moment, likely as he interprets visual cues that for him identify the women as queer. In other words, violence in public space against queer women surfaces in the moment – as does street harassment.

Feminists, queer scholars, and activists have long argued that street harassment and violence against gay men and queer and straight women is about policing gender and sexuality, and that the “police” are almost always heterosexual men. But the pattern here, the difference in the characteristics associated with attacks on gay men versus attacks on lesbians, suggests that harassment and violence against queer women (and indeed all women and queer individuals) is linked to rape culture where the male gaze conveys and embodies domination, entitlement and ownership.

Through street harassment lesbians are being disciplined for (among other things) having the temerity to place themselves out of the harasser’s figurative sexual reach, a violation of heterosexual gender norms. White male supremacy and rape culture intersect and dictate that queer women of color have even less permission than queer white women to occupy public (i.e. male) space and that men are even more entitled to discipline them for attempting to place their bodies outside the reach of heterosexual men. In fact, as Dorothy Roberts and others have aptly illustrated, disciplining the bodies of women of color has a long unbroken history in the U.S.

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Conservative Iranian newspapers silent on acid attacks

Outrage over a recent series of acid attacks against women in Isafahan, Iran has led to government and reformist newspapers criticizing the attacks, but conservative outlets have little to nothing to say.

Newspapers associated with conservatives in Iran have remained oddly silent or limited in their coverage of the attacks in Isfahan. Iran’s leading conservative newspaper, Kayhan, associated with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei’s office, has ran little to no coverage on the incidents, finally dedicating its Tuesday, October 22, 2014 frontpage with a headline that read: “Acidpashi in the face of hijab is used to create a wave of anti-revolutionary sentiment.” Kayhan wrote, “Contrary to the lying reports of foreign media and their domestic supporters, the victims of these incidents are women with proper hijab, and some of them from martyr families.”

According to Shahram Rafizadeh’s newspaper report in Radio Farda, Kayhan has accused reformist newspapers like Iran, Arman, Asrar, Khabar Online, Ebtekar, and Isfahan Ziba of publishing news related to the attacks in order to destroy the image of the “believers” and “supporters” of the Islamic regime.

Coverage of the news in conservative newspapers have largely been reactionary to other media, rather than focused on covering the news, or why these assaults have been occurring. Much of the blame for the attacks has been placed on conservative elements inside Iran, especially since lawmakers have proposed a bill that would give vigilantes legal protection to enforce hijab. In a report in Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, an Iranian woman explains, “[Hard-liners] have been spreading hatred against women, therefore many believe they are behind the attacks.” Many concerns against the lack of inaction by authorities reflects the conservative media’s limited attention to covering who are behind the attacks, and what is causing them.

Feminist Link Round Up 10.24.14